Dear Councillor,


In a planet-wide environmental breakdown that has contributed directly to the emergence of the Coronavirus pandemic, the preservation of our Green Belt is surely a `no-brainer`?

Do we really need to rehearse the far-sighted arguments that led to its establishment in the mid-1950s when environmental science was still in its infancy? Do we still need convincing of the need to safeguard the countryside and provide open space for walking, recreation and exercising; as well as to prevent urban sprawl, retain village identities, preserve the setting and character of historic towns, and encourage the re-generation of brownfield sites in towns and cities?

And are Oxford University and its colleges not especially responsible for conserving the agricultural and amenity land that has been bequeathed to their care by generations past - and for handing it on to generations to come? Instead they appear to be choosing the irreversible destruction of this increasingly vital national asset for windfall financial gain, at no affordable benefit to local residents.

Cherwell`s Local Review Plan to build 4,400 houses on the Green Belt north of Oxford has very little to do with providing affordable housing for key workers as claimed; little to do with Oxford`s `unmet housing need`; but a lot to do with the expansion of Oxford University. Furthermore, it is an opportunity for colleges to make tens of millions of pounds from the sale for development of their valuable land in the Green Belt.

Most of the development land is owned by the University and Colleges. The concreting over of strategically significant Green Belt was a destructive enough plan when first proposed over four years ago; now that every major council in Oxfordshire has signed up to a climate emergency it seems wilfully irresponsible. The Government promised in its manifesto and in repeated policy statements to "protect the Green Belt". So what is compelling Cherwell to go against this very clear Government Policy?

Oxford`s own Professor of Energy Policy, Dieter Helm, urgently proposes the enhancement (not just protection) and the economic evaluation of the Green Belt in order to show just what a valuable resource it is, and will continue to be, for us all; facilitating a return to a `green and prosperous land` before it is too late. Now is the time for the University and the Government, as well as the Council, to give serious consideration to Professor Helm`s proposals, and to re-evaluate the alternative options for development which are not on Oxford`s Green Belt.

It is not yet too late for the 15,000 Cherwell District residents of three villages just to the north of Oxford who may otherwise shortly be unwillingly joined in one congested, polluted, and unhealthy urban sprawl.

Giles Lewis.                          
Chair, Cherwell Development Watch Alliance.


Cherwell Development Watch Alliance is an organisation that represents the residents and campaign groups of Kidlington, Gosford and Water Eaton, Begbroke, Yarnton, North Oxford and Woodstock.